Wei-Yin Chen is looking for his first major-league hit, and he hopes to find it in the bag of bats belonging to the Marlins’ pitchers. Before taking the mound here on Saturday, Chen plans on rummaging through the bag in search of one bat in particular: Jose Fernandez’s.
“Of all the people, he’s the one who was most eager wanting to see me get my first hit,” Chen said through his interpreter.
Chen presently holds the dubious distinction of being the worst hitter in major-league history. He’s never had a hit in 48 career big-league at-bats.
Randy Tate, a pitcher from the 1970s, is next on the list: 0 for 41.
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Why, Chen has never even drawn a walk or been hit by a pitch either, giving him a career on-base percentage of .000.
For Chen to record his first hit with Fernandez’s bat would only be fitting.
The two were about as close as any two pitchers on the Marlins, forming their bond in spring training when Chen first joined the Marlins, a Taiwanese left-hander and a Cuban right-hander.
“Jose was a good friend to all of us,” Marlins pitcher David Phelps said. “But him and Chen, they spent more time together than with anyone else in the dugout. You’d see them in the dugout, arms around each other. Those two, they had a little bromance.”
Said Chen: “Jose’s actually the first Marlin I met when I came here, so we hit it off very quickly. It was him who introduced me to everybody else.”
They went out to eat together. They talked pitching. And, once in a while, they talked about hitting. Fernandez was a good hitter for a pitcher, with a couple of home runs and a career .213 batting average. His average this season: .250.
Chen, on the other hand, has been feeble at the plate.
Earlier this season in Milwaukee, it looked like his long dry spell had ended when he beat out what was first ruled an infield hit. But the play was later changed to an error, and Chen was left hitless.
“Of all the people, he’s the one who is the most eager wanting to see me getting the first hit,” Chen said. “When I couldn’t get a hit, when I got off the field, we would talk about the at-bat and sometimes he would encourage me. Sometimes he would mock me and say you [stink]. But he always encouraged me to get my first hit.”
Chen said Fernandez always beat him, no matter what they were playing.
“All I can say is, he’s an amazing athlete,” Chen said. “Whatever we played, whether it was basketball with the small basketball we have in the clubhouse, or Ping-Pong; I never beat him. He could do everything.”
Even though Fernandez was seven years the 31-year-old Chen’s junior, he was often the one offering pitching advice, trying to help his friend and teammate.
“This year, I’m having a rough year,” Chen said. “If it weren’t for him, I might have a worse year than I already have right now. Even though he’s younger than me, there was a lot I learned from him.”
Chen was looking forward to spending time with Fernandez in the offseason.
“We were going to get together for training,” Chen said. “And we were going to go out on his boat, and he was going to teach me fishing. We were going to have barbecues. And now it’s sad it’s not going to happen.”
Chen has lost his friend and biggest supporter. He wants to get his first hit more for Fernandez than for himself. And he would prefer to do it with one of Fernandez’s bats.
“That way, I can get my first hit with his bat, because he’s just like my brother,” Chen said. “That’s my way to honor him. I think it would be tremendous for both of us.”
▪ Saturday: Marlins LHP Chen (5-4, 5.02 ERA) at Washington Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86), 4:05 p.m., Nationals Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (9-13, 4.15) at Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (19-7, 2.82), 3:05 p.m., Nationals Park.